Not only are there different player types there are multiple different deck archetypes that have unique styles of play. Players have a tendency to gravitate to specific deck types. By knowing your meta you can include cards that will help you be successful. Today we will look at the final four deck archetypes. You can find the first five deck archetypes here.
Swarm or Tokens
The swarm or tokens archetype is a deck build that wants to go wide with creatures. It wants to first go around creatures creating more tokens than an opponent’s has blockers. Cards like Doubling Season or Parallel Lives speed up token production from multiple sources. Unless you have a combo like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts,it is not enough for a token deck to win with a ton of 1/1 creatures.
Token strategies also employ cards that will buff their tokens like Intangible Virtue or Leyline of the Meek. It also can utilize cards that buff all their tokens with creature abilities like Akroma’s Memorial or Goblin War Drums. Some cards will state tokens, but any card that has the text “creatures you control have” are solid for tokens. Some players will build token themes around a specific creature type or tribe opening up additional buffs to their tokens.
It is very difficult to make a swarm of tokens indestructible. This makes tokens vulnerable to board wipes over and over again. For this reason often token strategies will contain abilities that trigger when they sacrifice a creature. This way if their tokens would die they can sacrifice them for additional value.
Strength: Many of the cards are of the same value making your deck resilient to pinpoint removal. When tokens go off they explode big for very productive turns. Redundancy in the deck makes tokens easy to play and master.
Weakness: Very vulnerable to board wipes. It can be very difficult to recover from them multiple board wipes. Card effects like Fog can ruin tempo and allow your opponents to respond to your one big turn.
Synergy or Value
Artifact decks also fit into the value or synergy archetype. Synergy or value commander decks are build around a death by a thousand cuts conceptualization. Where many commander decks build around large must answer threats the synergy or value deck seems less dangerous. These decks rely on game play effects that may not seem like much. When you pair several of these effects there is a result larger than two combined. When the cards are cast over multiple turns or are under costed, value is created. Value is also created by effects that trigger each turn or by tap effects that can be repeated. This value paves the way to an overwhelming board state that can be difficult to defeat.
Surgespanner and Azami, Lady of Scrolls are strong effects outright but when you pair the two they become something more. You can use Azami’s ability to tap the Surgespanner to draw a card. Then pay two mana to trigger the Surgespanner tap ability to send a card to their owner’s hand. Add a Fatestitcher to this engine and you can untap the Surgespanner and produce this effect twice a turn. These decks create multiple value engines or one large engine that need to be disrupted or these decks will take over the game.
Some people attribute Superfriends as it’s own archetype. Superfriends is a deck that is filled full of planeswalkers. This deck uses the planeswalkers abilities over and over again to gain value and a board state that will overwhelm and win the game. Just by the definition alone The superfirends is a subdivision of the value archetype.
There is a difference between the synergy decks and the combo decks. A combo deck has multiple cards that work together to win the game immediately. Whereas the synergy deck will have cards working together that will lead to a winning board state. Value decks will not outright win the game.
Strength: Threats are veiled and often not “must answer” threats. Opponents focus elsewhere through the first five or six turns of the game. Multiple value engines makes the deck flexible on how it wins and is adaptive to the current board state.
Weakness: Specific value engines can be disrupted. The deck can be vulnerable in the early turns if it builds too quickly.
Tribal archetypes are very straightforward. These decks build around a creature theme such as Goblins, Vampires, Elves or many many more creature types. Tribal decks can be flexible because creature types have a tendency to synergize well with each other. Tribal decks also often employ cards that buff the tribe in lords, a creature that provides a +1/+1 bonus. Sometimes lords provide an some other extra ability further strengthening the tribe. The advantage is that these buffs are tribe specific and will not affect other creatures on the board.
Tribal decks often have other synergies or card interactions than just buffs. Vampires can cause some direct damage or remove creatures, Merfolk can bounce permanents and draw cards and make unblockable creatures. Goblins can just explode into massive swarms and can do some direct damage along the way. Zombies keep coming in waves as they are played again and again from the graveyard. A lot of creativity can go into a tribal deck. They can be just swarm deck but they don’t have to be and can create a fun outlet for commander.
Strength: Can be flexible in its build incorporating swarm, synergy or combo deck archetypes. Varied game play depending what you draw. Usually are quick to build a board state due to low CMC (Converted Mana Cost) creatures.
Weakness: Board wipes and pinpoint removal of critical pieces or cards can greatly limit your impact on the game.
Voltron was a pop culture cartoon in the mid 1980s. Its premise was that a group of heros driving separate vehicles could combine to create one super robot. This robot defended humanity. The cartoon was based on several Japanese anime predecessors. In commander, the idea of Voltron is to suit your commander up with equipment and enchantments. When the commander deals 21 commander damage to a player he loses the game.
Thrun, The Last Troll or Sigarda Host of Herons are excellent Voltron commanders. These two have hexproof and are very difficult to remove once cast. Still there are plenty of other commander options like Rafiq of the Many or Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. Equipment is preferred to pump up your commander. This way if your commander dies, then the equipment stays on the able to be used again. Enchantments go to the graveyard when the creature they enchant dies. The “Sword of” cycle especially Sword of Feast and Famine are strong voltron equipment. Whispersilk Cloak and Blackblade Reforged are also strong examples of voltron equipment.
Strength: only 21 damage is needed to take a player out of the game. You will always have access to the major piece of your strategy.
Weakness: Limited creatures and commander removal if they can destroy your commander multiple times it can be difficult to cast.
Normally players do not take notes at the commander table. Still you need to pay attention throughout the game and during every players turn. When you exit a game with some ideas of what others are playing and specific cards that cause problems for your deck, it will be to your benefit. This will allow you to build answers to some of these problematic cards in your decks.
Also, pay attention to see if players are using cards that allow them to search their deck for a card. These cards bring consistency. If other players are playing these cards, then you may need to include some in your deck. Some of these cards require them to reveal the card. If it does, then play attention and remember what they are searching for. Often these cards are key to what their deck wants to do. These are the cards you need to think about and have answers for. .
Be aware if you observe a specific card being played a lot in your playgroup. If a card is played by several opponents, then ask yourself does the card need to be answered or that player wins? If the answer is yes, then you need to have an answer for it. With all the design possibilities in commander you can’t begin to prepare for them all. By knowing your meta it allows you to be ready to answer specific threats. It also enables you to work around problematic cards that would hinder you. It streamlines your deck design and lead to a more enjoyable game play experience for you